A Redwing (a member of the Thrush family)
(Click here for Part I of this adventure) We arrived at the campground at night, so when I woke up in the tent, I had no idea what the scenery would look like. The image below is about an hour after waking up, but at this point a lot of the gorgeous mist had lifted. There aren’t a lot of trees in Iceland and a large amount of them are evergreens. Coming from Maryland, it’s been a bit sad to miss out on the bright fall colors. Skaftafell was the exception. The base of the mountain was covered in these beautiful little birch trees whose leaves were a perfect gold (I couldn’t help but make the nerdy “leaves of Lorien” comparison.
Our plan for the day was to hike to the summit of Kristínartindar (3694 ft / 1126 m). We left our campsite about an hour after dawn, and arrived back at dusk. A full day of hiking across some beautiful landscapes.
Skaftafell is known for it’s bird population. We saw lot Rock Ptarmigan, a type of grouse (image below). They would burst up from the colorful vegetation in large flocks. It was quite a breathtaking sight. Since we went in late fall, they were in between summer and fall plumage. Some were already completely white.
For a large potion of the climb, we could see the glacier along our right (and a waterfall or two on the far side) as well as the sunlight bouncing off the ocean on the horizon. It was unusually warm, bright, and clear that day. Absolutely perfect weather for hiking and great panoramic views of southern Iceland.
The sunset on the way back down was absolutely glorious. The flora here (and in Iceland in general) had a overall somber, subdued feel, but a closer look revealed hundreds of reds, purples, greens, and golds.